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Presents Under a Palm Tree!

I love having Christmas at home, we buy our tree, visit a Santa, see lots of friends and eat lots of food but I have always wondered what it would be like having Christmas abroad and I do think I would like to try it one year, I bet it would be brilliant. Imagine it being hot enough to go on the beach on Christmas Day!

The people at Destination2 have asked what we think Christmas abroad might be like, we had lots of fun imagining what we might expect. I would love to go to Ras Al Khaimah which is one of the seven Emirates in the UAE. My Mum went there before I was born and she has always wanted to go back for a holiday with us.

We think that Christmas would be the perfect time to go, it would be much warmer than here but it wouldn’t be too hot that you couldn’t do lots of things. I think we would be able to buy all the presents we need easily- they have a huge shopping mall which would be a good place to start and then we could visit the souk and try out our bargaining techniques to get a good deal on the rest.

I have been reading about Ras Al Khaimah and I think that would make Christmas a great time to visit, it sounds like it would be a really nice atmosphere. You could visit one of the Churches if you wanted to or you could go to the tree lighting or carol services put on at many of the hotels.

If you go at the right time you could even pop across to Abu Dhabi for Winterfest and see all the excitement going on there- I think that might be a bit like going to Winter Wonderland with Ice Skating and shows and rides.

I wonder what it would be like with so much sand at Christmas? I can’t imagine going in the sea on Christmas Day but perhaps we could build a sandman instead of a snowman! We could use shells for the buttons and eyes and seaweed for his scarf!

Lottie and I think that Santa’s reindeer might not be used to the heat so perhaps they get a rest when he gets there and he lets the camels take over pulling the sleigh. I wonder if one can do it all on their own or if he would need a whole lot of them- my Mum went to a camel farm and she said it was a bit smelly but I suppose Santa might be used to that with his reindeer!

Father Christmas dashing over the palm trees with his red nose camel!

 

We would really like it if the Palm Trees were all decorated with tinsel, lights and baubles and if the presents were left underneath them!

I don’t know what food they would eat in Ras Al Khaimah for Christmas dinner, I know you can get all sorts of things like you do in the UK but I would love to imagine it was a huge feast with a long table full of delicious foods and that it would last a really long time with lots of yummy desserts.

I know exactly what present I would like if I visited Ras Al Khaimah for Christmas- I would LOVE to go on one of the desert safaris in an open top jeep, it looks amazing. My Mum said it was brilliant and terrifying at the same time. I would send her on a camel ride which she has done twice before and said ‘never again’ about!!

I think it would be great fun to go abroad for Christmas and would love to do that one year. We had lots of fun looking at the Destination2 website  and imaging where we would choose!

Lottie wanted me to draw her a palm tree to decorate!

 

 

 

Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post written for Destination2

 

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Lottie’s Christmas Recommendations- Gift ideas for 6 year olds!

Luke and I have been writing down ideas of things we think children our age will love. These are my ideas for 6 year olds, I think they all look brilliant and I hope Father Christmas might bring me one of them!

Sylvannian Families Starry Point Lighthouse– This looks like so much fun. I like that it lights up and projects on your bedroom ceiling.

Jakks toys Chocolate Egg Surprise Maker– I think this looks yummy!

Aquabeads Disney Princess Set– I love my Aquabeads sets and think other 6 year olds will too

Vtech Secret Safe Diary– This looks really good, I like the idea of a secret password

 

Hatchimals Surprise– I think Hatchimals are really cute!

 

Lottie Dolls – I love my Muddy Puddles Lottie doll and would love another one, She has a great name! I REALLY like the idea of the tent too!

LEGO Friends Snow Ski Resort Ice Rink – I like playing with LEGO and like trying to build it when Luke doesn’t try and do it all for me!

Luvabella Doll– Luke says she is creepy but I like the Luvabella doll, I like that she talks to you and I really like the idea of scaring my brother with her!

Silver Cross Pioneer 5 in 1 Dolls Pram– This looks beautiful, I would love to push my babies around in one of these. I think they would be lovely and cosy!

 

Rainbow Heart Care Bear- I love these! My Mummy always wanted a Care Bear when she was little so she could always share it with me!

I hope that gives you lots of ideas! Luke has a list for bigger children and we are doing one for our little brother too so you can look at those if you want some more ideas.

Lottie x

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Stepping into the Future- Our visit to Futuroscope in France

We recently got back from a brilliant holiday to France over half term. We had taken loads of books and activities to do as we expected most places to be closed as it is now off season, but we found out that although some of our normal favourite places are closed there is still loads to do.

Our favourite place that we visited during the holiday was the amazing Park of Futuroscope. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year and I can’t believe we haven’t been before- it was awesome!

The park is very modern and funky- along with the unusual buildings there are sculptures and artwork all around which you could spend ages looking at by themselves. It is also quite a peaceful place with lots of water, grass and trees. There are huge bean bags everywhere so you can sit and watch the world go by and massive garden chairs to climb up on and get settled onto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is so much to do it was difficult to know where to start. Luckily the maps and programmes detailed the times of all the shows and rides and whether they were continuous or just at specific times, these were available in English and German as well as French. If you are still struggling to know where to start you can visit a robot who will help you plan your day!

It would be very easy to spend two or three days at Futuroscope- you certainly wouldn’t get bored and one day isn’t long enough if you are hoping to do everything but you can still have a really good time if you only have a day there- we would just recommend making sure you knew exactly what you wanted to do and getting there as early as possible so you can squeeze as much in as possible.

We decided that we would concentrate mostly on the rides and pick  a couple of shows we really wanted to see as that would let us get the most done during our visit. We were lucky enough that we had all received Premium Passes and whilst these are 20 Euros a person extra they made a huge difference as they meant that you were allowed fast track access once to each of the main attractions and we would definitely recommend getting one of these if you were only going for a day as it meant you didn’t need to spend too much time queuing.

We went on lots of different rides – I won’t spoil it by telling you all of them but they were all different and some of them were really mad- one you sat on these funny seats and then realised you were in what was basically a public toilet before you shot off! In another you started by feeling like you were boarding an airplane before you got to the main part of the ride and took off. My absolute favourite though was the shortest ride but it was brilliant fun and as soon as I came off it I wanted to go back on! It was Dances with Robots and you can see from the clip below how much fun it is.

My sister was just a bit too small for Dances with Robots and she was jealous as she really wanted to go on it- she’ll have to grow for next time! There is three settings so you don’t have to go upside down if you don’t want but I think that’s the fun part. My brother and sister liked the fact that they could go and watch the ride from a viewing platform- my sister said it was like being at a disco. We haven’t been able to get the song from it out of our heads ever since!

We went to the Ice Age show, this was a 4D showing on a special Ice Age film with plenty of special effects. We also went to the Drone Academy Show which was brilliant- it was so clever what they had managed to do with the drones and bits of it were quite funny. I loved this one as I have wanted to fly a drone for ages. We had headsets that could translate the shows into English but to be honest with both of the ones that we saw it didn’t matter if you spoke brilliant French or not because you could still understand what was happening.

One of my favourite things we did during the day was visit Futur L’Expo which was an exhibition of things of the future- we planned to just pop in for ten minutes to have a look and ended up staying for over an hour, there was so much to do. The was an interactive fridge that gave you recipes, a tablet that you could use to control a robot, screens where you could be shown dressed up and waving a magic wand whist just as yourself and a 3D printer. The robot had a screen on it so you could drive off and see people and then talk to each other from the other side of the room, controlling it was really fun. The 3D printer was so clever- you could design things on the laptop and see how they would work and if you wanted to could even make and buy a 3D model of your own head!

 

We could have even gone to a night-time show too but because we had my toddler brother with us we decided we would be better to leave that until he was a bit older. We ran out of time a bit as there was plenty of other things we could have done but like I said I think next time we will go for two days. If we had longer then my Mum would have liked to have seen the magic show which we were recommended and I would have liked to go on the boats and use the water guns as well as see some of the other shows and go on the rides again.

There were loads of places to eat at Futuroscope– we did find the queues very long for food but had been told the buffet restaurant (La Table D’Arthur) was quick so when we go again we will try there, otherwise there are plenty of places you can eat a picnic if you didn’t want to loose any time. There was also lots of gifts shops so you could buy all the usual things like pens and mugs, some things specific to the Park like their characters and then they also sold more unusual gifts like science and space toys and activities so it was nice to have lots of different things to choose from.

We did find that my little brother was too young for a lot of it and whilst there was plenty for him to see and lots of play areas he could play in with plenty of space for him to run around he was a bit sad he couldn’t go on the rides (he really liked the racing cars and fire engines) so we would recommend it as being best for children over 5. Lottie wasn’t tall enough for quite everything but she did manage to do nearly all of it.

 

We would definitely recommend Futuroscope to anyone looking for an adventure, If you can go for at least two days then that would be best but if not then plan your visit well, get there as early as possible and plan to stay until late and as I said it is well worth getting a Premium Pass if you can. Lottie and I can’t wait to go again next year- I wish we had something like Futuroscope in the UK.

 

 

Disclaimer: We were lucky enough to receive complimentary passes to Futuroscope but all thought are our own

 

 

 

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Getting Excited for Refresh Festival!

We have a great end to the school holidays planned- we are off to Wellington Country Park between Reading and Basingstoke on 2nd and 3rd September for Refresh Festival.

Refresh Festival is an outdoor health and fitness festival for all the family. It is being hosted by Dame Kelly Holmes and there is going to be lots of workshops and activities that people of all ages can join in with however sporty they are.

The event runs both on the Saturday and the Sunday and you can either go for both days or just one but there is so much going on then I think a weekend pass will be the best way to do everything.

There are eight different zones- Regenerate Zone has workout sessions, Re-Energise has performances, Revitalise Zone has workshops and nutritional advice, the Recharge Zone is running Pilates and Yoga sessions, In the Revive Zone there is reflexology and spa treatments, Refuel Zone is full of juice bars and healthy food, the Relax zone is perfect to just relax and recover and the Rejuvenate Zone gives you chance to do some shopping from local traders.

I can’t wait to see TEAM3RUN who are performing at Refresh and Lottie is looking forward to trying Yoga with Young Yogis .There is even something for Sam because Mr Bloom will be there too! I am looking forward to getting my Dad to come and visit The Travelling Puzzle Emporium who are going to be there with a portable mini golf course which should be fun, and hopefully he will do some workshops with me. I think my Mum will be able to fill most of her time between the Revive zone and the Rejuvenate Zone!

On the Sunday there is even a Children’s Sports Day- you can sign up in advance to take part in different Sports Day events such as the Egg and Spoon Race, the Sack Race and the 100m within your age group. The winners even get medals presented by Dame Kelly Holmes.

I think it looks like Refresh Festival is going to be an awesome way for us to finish the school holidays and think it will be well worth a look for families looking for something fun to do, tickets are available here and start from £25 for a day with under 13’s going free.

We are pleased to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a family ticket for either the Saturday or Sunday- Good Luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Disclaimer: We have been gifted a weekend family pass for ourselves and a family ticket to giveaway in exchange for our honest review of the event.

 

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Into The Trees – A Family Adventure

I am really looking forward to going to Into The Trees over the weekend of the 9th and 10th September. We have never been before but it looks like it is going to be a fantastic family adventure.

There is loads of different activities going on- Slacklining, Story Telling and Den Building. I am most excited to try out Archery, Axe Throwing and Mountain Boarding which all sound awesome!

Mountain boarding looks awesome!

 

It looks like there is going to be plenty to do for all the family at Into The Trees including pond dipping and mud monsters which even my little brother will be old enough to join in with and will love doing.

Into the Trees takes place in the heart of the Ashdown Forest within the protected ancient woodland of Pippingford Park and runs from 10am to 5pm on the 9th and 10th September. You can buy a family pass for either day for just £22 in advance.

We are looking forward to sharing our photos from the day and are very excited to be offering you the chance win a family pass for either the Saturday or the Sunday too.

 

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Aquabeads Cars 3 3D Set Review

My sister, Lottie, has been doing a little bit of a project with our latest Aquabead set.

She is making a 3D Lightning McQueen from the  Aquabeads Cars 3 3D range. It is more complicated than the Aquabead sets we have reviewed previously because it is built up in layers, so you do a layer, spray it with water and leave it to set before taking it off and starting the next one.

 

Lottie has really enjoyed this and has done a layer each day over the last week. You only need to leave it for a short time before you can remove each layer but we have found the longer you can leave them the better they set so doing a layer each day has worked well.

 

Lottie is really pleased with how Lightning McQueen came out- it’s brilliant how ‘real’ it looks when made out of Aquabeads. You can even drive him around because the wheels really turn but Lottie is so pleased with it she is going to put it on display in her bedroom.

We had already been enjoying our Aquabead sets but Lottie enjoyed the challenge of making a more tricky set. She did need some help with stacking the layers to make the final car but otherwise, other than needing Mum to cut up the templates which are on the instructions for her she was able to do it all herself. Her tips are to use loads and loads of water (far more than you think you need), leave them to set slightly longer than you think they need and be really careful to not use the grey beads instead of white! We also found that you need to try and squash the layers together a bit so it’s useful to have a heavy small box to put on top of them to keep it all flat.

We really like the 3D Aquabead sets, and they do some other ones as well as Lightning McQueen, including Cruz in the same range so you could have a pair! They are aimed at children age 4 plus and I think a four year old could make this with some help but we think they are perfect for children age 6-8 and would make great birthday presents for children of this age group.

 

Disclaimer: We were sent this awesome Aquabeads Cars 3D set to review but all views are my own and my sister’s.

 

 

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A Day Out with Hamerton Zoo Park

We recently discovered Hamerton Zoo Park is on our doorstep and were pleased to be invited for a day out there so we could see for ourselves what it was like.

We found it easily met up with our friends before heading in. Even though the car park was really busy it quickly felt quite peaceful and quiet once we got through the gate and although there were plenty of other people there it didn’t feel at all crowded like lots of places do in the school holidays.

I really liked the set up of the zoo. There were lots of animals I had never even heard of before as well as some that I had that were very rare. I really liked the white tigers, they were awesome and I had only ever seen one before in a zoo in France.

Taking a break from the admiring visitors!

 

I especially liked Hamerton Zoo because it felt more like a conservation place than a zoo. The animals all had nice big enclosures and plenty of things to keep them busy- some had long tunnels and runs going off their enclosures too. There was a lot of information about the animals and their habitats as well as explaining how their population was in different parts of the world, this was really interesting to read and some of it was quite shocking.

My very favourite animal was the white tiger but I also loved the chipmunks who were great fun to watch, the monkeys and meerkats who are really entertaining, the kookaburra who made a brilliant noise and the tortoises who are actually surprisingly fast and have an enormous enclosure that they race around. Actually I am sure there are lots more animals that are on my favourites list!

 

    

Along with the enclosures and information we were also very impressed with how the zoo managed to blend with the environment generally. We saw two nests with baby swallows in and my friend’s Mum, who loves all things to do with nature and wildlife pointed out that there was lots of plants like buddleia that were good for bees and butterflies and plenty of bamboo and other plants too so it was good to see that Hamerton are supporting all the other wildlife too.

Tiny baby swallows in their nest.

 

One of our tests as to if somewhere is a good family day out is whether or not it has something that keeps us all happy and Hamerton Zoo seemed able to do that. My brother, Sam is two and liked being able to see the animals himself through the little windows in the side of the enclosures- he also absolutely loved the train. My Mum felt this was a little pricey at £2 per person (although she is judging this for our family of 5 which can make things seem expensive) but she said it wasn’t too awful because it was a longer ride than we expected and you got to see quite a few animals on route.  Lottie and I also loved all the animals, I especially liked having all the information to read but also we both really enjoyed the play area too, this had a great selection of play equipment, with a huge climbing frame and a zip wire. There was a smaller play area for under fives too which had much better things than a lot of areas aimed at small children and kept Sam entertained for a fairly long time. There is also a stone maze within the play area which we all had fun walking on.

There is a café which served a selection of snacks and things like hot dogs and sausage rolls as well as lots of benches that you could use if you had taken a picnic so it had a good set up for having a long visit.

We spent most of the day at Hamerton, it was a great place to visit, we loved the fact that there was plenty to do but also liked the fact it wasn’t so big you couldn’t go back round and see things again.

 

My Mum felt that although a zoo visit is always quite an expensive day out Hamerton Zoo was good value for money at £13.99 for adults and £8.99  for children with under 3’s going free- we will definitely be going back again and have already suggested it to lots of our friends for the Summer holidays.

 

Disclaimer: We were lucky enough to be given free entry to the zoo in return for our honest review and all thoughts and comments are our own.

Please note several pictures in this post were taken by Diana Evans. For more of Diana’s projects or to contact her directly please visit Diana Evans Artist

The Places We Will Go
Plutonium Sox
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Rainy Day Activities for Children

We have been quite lucky so far this holiday, despite there being heavy rain every single day we have only had one day where we really felt a bit stuck in and have so far managed to avoid getting soaked.

I do have lots of things ready to do if it does rain though and these are a few of my ideas.

Build a Den

We love building a den- it’s something you can do indoors or outdoors and it can be as big as you have space for or tiny and cosy. You don’t need loads of equipment, blankets and a clothes horse are fine or you can use other furniture and bedding or picnic rugs. If it’s outside then logs, sticks, string and tarpaulin are perfect. Once you have built it you can decorate it and make it comfortable and then decide what you want to do in there- read a book, have a picnic, do some writing. I am not sure den building is something you ever completely grow out of!

LEGO Challenge

Tip out a big box of LEGO, set a timer and challenge everyone to make something on a theme (vehicles, space, food, animals etc) when the time is up you have to stop and can pick a winner. This is great because you can have quick builds or longer builds with more difficult themes. For younger children you could do this with Duplo or even using Playdoh and you don’t even need to pick a winner, it could just be for fun.

Cinema Day

Agree on a film, and then plan to spend an afternoon watching it. Younger children might enjoy making tickets but everyone can get involved with making cinema snacks. You can pop some popcorn and make some crispie cakes to eat while you enjoy your film.

Baking Day

Spend the day doing lots of baking and hopefully you can enjoy it all for a picnic the next day when it’s nicer!

Games and Puzzle Challenge

Invite some friends over and set up lots of boards games, card games and puzzles and have a tournament. If you are allowed then you could do the same type of thing on a computer or games console.

Play Rain Games

Get your raincoat and wellies on and go and splash in the puddles and dance in the rain. You can then come back in and dry off while having raindrop races on the window!

Messing about in puddles!

 

I would love to know what sort of things other children like to do when the weather is bad?

 

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Awesome New Airfix Quick Build Sets

I have been interested in learning about both World War One and World War Two since I went to Ypres last year and have read a lot of books about history and fighter planes. I am now really looking forward to going to see the new Dunkirk film with my Dad, I have read some really good reviews of it.

I was very excited when Airfix asked if I would be like to try out their new Quick Build Sets ahead of the release of Dunkirk. They sent us a Spitfire and a Messerschmitt in the Quick Build version and the same in the normal Airfix starter model sets.

  

I had tried Airfix a couple of years ago when I was 6 or 7 but had found it quite tricky at that time and so although I love any building toys and activities it hadn’t really been a range I had looked at recently. When the sets arrived both my Dad and sister were keen to get involved. The Airfix Quick Build Sets are aimed at children age 5+ so it seemed like it would be alright for Lottie to try and we set a challenge to see if we could build ours quicker than Dad could. I got started on the Quick Build Spitfire, Lottie on the Quick Build Messerschmitt and Dad on the original sets.

 

I was able to get straight on with the Airfix Quick Build, the instructions were really easy to follow and it went together really well. Lottie found it slightly more complicated but still managed to follow the instructions and build it mostly herself with just a little bit of grown up help- sometimes she wasn’t quite sure what she needed to do next and a couple of times she couldn’t quite clip the pieces together fully . We think it was still very good for the first time she had made something like this and we also think if she was more used to building construction type models she wouldn’t have needed any help so think the guidelines of 5+ are about right- she is 5 and didn’t need too much help really. We were both very pleased with the finished models and Lottie was really proud of her building.

 

 

We easily beat my Dad in the challenge- mainly because we kept stopping him to ask him questions but he and I were able to sit down and build the Airfix Starter Set Spitfire over the next couple of nights. I think I am nearer to the right age to be able to do these now too.  It is still a bit tricky to do the fiddly bits but I was able to follow the instructions easily enough and had enough patience to sit down and do it over time including letting it dry. My Dad also really enjoyed it, he likes doing practical things and making things but hasn’t done any model making since he was a child

 

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Once we finished Dad let me paint this one- I think it came out quite well for our first attempt!

We will definitely be revisiting the Airfix range- I loved the idea of the Airfix Quick Build sets. It was good that we were able to get on with it ourselves and it didn’t need lots of setting up or worrying about paint, glue and making a mess. I also like the fact that it comes with a display stand too so you can play with it and also display it like a proper model. I really loved doing the Airfix starter sets too as although I found bits of it difficult I really enjoyed this as an activity to do with my Dad.

 

 

 

Disclaimer: We were sent these Airfix kits to review but all thought are our own

 

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Fletter- A brand new word game!

I was really excited when I was asked if I would like to review a brand new word game. If you have been reading the blog for a while you will know we often have family game nights and this Fletter sounded exactly like the type of game we would enjoy.

It arrived the other day and I was excited to test it with my friend this afternoon when he came round for a play. I asked if he wanted to try Fletter out and he shrugged and said we could give it a go. Within 5 minutes my Mum said she had never heard us both laughing so hard when playing a game and by the time it was time for him to go home he was telling his Mum that Fletter was brilliant and really, really funny and that they had to get it to play with his big sisters.

You get two boxes of cards with letters, each worth a certain number of points and these get divided out between the number of people playing (at least two). Each player puts down a card in turn and then it is a race against players to find words whilst adding more cards to the game. The first person to make a word from the letters gets to claim those letters and the points they are worth but if two people shout the same word at the same time then neither can claim and the cards get taken out of the game. If you shout out a word that doesn’t exist then the other players can give you a special card that makes you ‘Flettered’ and this means you have points to deduct from your total. Once you have put down all the cards and made up as many words as possible you can tot up your total from your letters, deduct any ‘Flettered’ cards and the person with the highest number of points wins the round. The game winner is decided after four rounds.

 

You can even make the game more difficult by playing in specific rounds- so on round one you make three letter words, on round two you do four letter, on round three it’s five letters and on round four it’s six letters which would really make your brain work! If you get the wrong length of word you would also be Flettered!

I like the fact that it’s an exciting game, you are immediately in the middle of playing without waiting round. It’s quite noisy with words being shouted out and very funny with silly words and trying to shout the loudest the fastest. I don’t think you have to be an amazing speller but you do need to be a quick thinker and be able to make yourself heard. It’s also great because you could take it and play it anywhere. I also think lots of people could play it together so it would be great for a holiday, sleepover or school trip.

I really enjoyed playing Fletter and I know my friend did too, it is my turn to choose the game for our game night on Saturday so I will definitely be getting my parents to play this with me. I think grown ups will enjoy this game just as much as children. I think the age rating of 8 plus is probably right but my little sister will join in and make a team with my Mum – she will enjoy being in charge of the dictionary and giving out the Flettered cards for any made up words! Lottie and I just had a practise run of playing a round together and she really liked it.

Taking over Mum’s office with a quick practise round of Fletter!

We will definitely be introducing all our friends to Fletter and would recommend you keep an eye out for it’s arrival in the UK as this is the perfect game for a family celebration.